Travel takes away

October 6, 2014
Twice in a Lifetime, Alisa
Elias and Alisa Mike Litzow

Alisa, excited to hear that some new acquaintances were going to be practicing dance at the church here in Rairua, the village where we’re anchored, asks if she can come to watch.  The women who will be dancing seem surprised that she wants to come just to watch, but she explains how much we like seeing Polynesian dance…

So after a quick dinner on Galactic she and Elias head back to the village while I hold down the Eric fort…and they find the women, lined up in the church annex, doing Zumba routines to an instructional video.

Mike Litzow

Or the baker.  Consider the baker.  He delivers bread to the village in the morning, and you have to order your baguettes the day before.


Alisa went in one morning and returned with two delicious loaves.  She went in the next morning and returned empty-handed after a long wait.  The baker had been too tired to bake.  An even longer wait the next morning saw her again returning empty-handed.  The baker had stopped for coffee with a friend.  Or at least that was the unlikely story that reached her across the gulf of unshared languages.

Sunday at the motu
Sunday at the motu Mike Litzow

Taking the dinghy in and waiting fruitlessly on a village street corner at seven in the morning two days in a row was too much for our hero.

“That baker no longer exists for me,” is all she would say when she regained the comforts of Galactic.


But, then!  Travel gives back.

Trash fire in paradise
Trash fire in paradise Mike Litzow

After making a few inquiries, Alisa learned that, yes, it might be possible for the boys to go to school.  Harold, the English-speaking employee at the mairie, the city hall, her ally from three sessions of lunette distribution, offers to call the director of the school, then brings the Mayor in to give our request more substance when it meets with initial resistance.  The nurse at the clinic translates the boys’ vaccination records over the weekend so that they will be legit.  Harold wrangles time from work Monday morning, and permission to drive the whole family to school in the commune vehicle so that he can smooth our way with the director and his staff, none of them English speakers.

First day of school
First day of school Mike Litzow

And, like that, it’s set.  After this first ride in the car, the boys will start to ride the bus, morning and afternoon.  Lunch is provided.  They need bring nothing.  Alisa doesn’t even have to pack a meal the night before.


She is dumbstruck by the idea.  A whole day to herself?  And then another and another, for a whole week?  No need to cajole reluctant offspring-scholars, or, since this is the Tasmanian school holiday, no need to provide entertainment for endlessly energetic kids? The ability to do laundry without having to yell at anyone? The ability to go for a walk, or ride a bike, without being in full mom mode?

It’s almost too much to contemplate.



So, we like Raivavae.

We like it to the point that my standing joke is about our next step being application for citizenship.

We like the people and we like the place and we have to search around for something like an unreliable baker to find anything negative to say.

Seasoned traveler that I am, I wonder when the tide will turn.  When will we have stayed too long and suddenly lose our rose-colored glasses and feel the need to pick up the anchor and get somewhere else.

Or, then again, maybe Raivavae is just a complete home run – a Tahanea or Penrhyn or Hobart, somewhere that no matter how long we might have stayed in the past, we would gladly take the chance to visit for another year.

Time will tell… Meet the crew of Galactic: Mike and Alisa Litzow and their sons Elias and Eric. “When we left Alaska to sail to Australia with our toddler for crew, we thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But then we had our second child, and bought our second boat, and sailed across the Pacific a second time. We’ve been living aboard for seven years now. Sometimes we wonder how long we’ll keep at it, but all we know for sure is that the end doesn’t seem to be in sight just yet.” Follow their story at


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